He may be best known for his work on numerous Star Wars films, but Pennsylvania native Peter Daulton envisions a Chautauqua County treasure at the center of an independent documentary.
Daulton was scheduled to begin filming this week at Midway State Park for what will end as a half-hour movie for PBS tentatively airing near Memorial Day in 2023. The former visual effects artist has an impressive resume for his decades of work on many big budget films, but is also known for his independent projects.
His 2018 documentary, “Ride,” focused on the Albany carousel in Oregon.
Daulton grew up in Bradford, Pennsylvania and visited Midway as a child. “Some of my truest and most cherished memories come back to me as a young child,” he said. “It is designed for small children.”
In the 90s, while driving through the area, Daulton came across the park. Although he didn’t have time to stop then, he vowed to return to the site of so many great childhood memories.
“It’s amazing. It hasn’t changed since the 60s. Daulton said.
Midway, located on Route 430 in Maple Springs near Chautauqua Lake, was established in 1898 as a wagon park. According to the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, it is “one of the oldest operating amusement parks in the country.”
In July 1998, Midway Park celebrated its centennial. About six years later, in 2004, Michael and Janis Walsh put the park up for sale. The couple had purchased the park from Michael Walsh’s father two decades earlier.
In an October 2005 announcement that surprised some local and county officials, then governor. George Pataki said New York would buy Midway to make it a state park. “We owe a lot to those who had the vision for this park in 1898, as well as to those who maintain it today”, Pataki said. “For $4 million, we will buy Midway Park and ensure it stays open for another 102 years.”
This park story appeals to Daulton, who had a nearly 40-year career in special effects; his first job, according to his IMDb page, was as an assistant cameraman with Industrial Light & Magic working on “Return of the Jedi” released in 1983. His last work, deservedly, was on 2019 “The Rise of Skywalker.”
Retired from special effects, Daulton hopes to produce more documentaries. The first will be about Midway and its history as a streetcar park. The title of the film is “Carriage Park: Halfway.”
“Memories will touch on the history of the streetcar parks and have interviews with local residents about their early memories of Midway,” Daulton said. “We will also talk about how the park was saved by becoming part of the New York State Park System.”
Daulton hopes to find similar success with this documentary as he did with “Ride,” viewed by millions on PBS. “We want to repeat that” he said.
He has goals when it comes to showcasing Midway State Park. “I think of two things” he said. “To inspire Midway and show how it has been preserved for so many generations. … And to kind of remind people of the joy of the experience that they had there – that joy that many of us had in that park, share with the children and grandchildren, share that joy in every possible way.
Filming will take place throughout the month, including Midway’s opening weekend on May 28, 29 and 30. Daulton encourages those who love the park to attend and be part of the film.